Many court matters involve complex and valuable legal rights. You should always speak with an attorney before filing any papers. Please see Find a Lawyer in Massachusetts for information on local lawyer referral services and legal aid agencies.

Here are ten helpful tips about how to conduct yourself in court. Please read them carefully before entering the courtroom. These guidelines and all court rules apply to Attorneys as well.

How to Conduct Yourself in Court

Dress in a way that shows respect for the courtYou do not have to buy new clothes for court but halters, worn out jeans and tee-shirts are not appropriate. Don't chew gum, eat or drink in the courtroom.
Be on timeIf you miss your hearing, the judge can make orders that you may not agree with and which may seriously affect you and your children.
Do not bring children into courtMany of the topics discussed in court are not appropriate for young children. Please arrange for a friend or relative to watch your children while you are in court.
Stand when the judge enters or leaves the courtroomThe court officer will tell you when to sit and stand. If you are in doubt, stand when the judge is standing. You can usually sit down once the judge is seated, unless you are speaking with the judge.
Stand and speak when the judge talks to youRemain standing as long as you and the judge are talking. You may need to stay standing even if the judge talks to the person on the other side of your case. If in doubt, ask the judge before sitting down.
The judge will let you know when to speakNever get into an argument or even a discussion with the other side in front of the judge. Always speak directly to the judge, unless the judge allows you to answer formal questions from the other side.
Speak clearlyYou need to speak and not just nod or shake your head because court proceedings are always recorded. Listen carefully to the questions you are asked. Be direct and to the point when answering questions.
Always address the judge as "Your Honor"The judge must keep order in the courtroom and will be making important decisions about you and your children. Be respectful and understand that the judge likes to keep the proceedings as orderly as possible. This helps keep the process fair to everyone.
Your case may be "Taken Under Advisement"This means that the judge needs time to think about how to decide your case and the court will mail the decision to you once it is made. Make sure that the court has your current mailing address.
Do not talk on your way out or even right outside the doorMany times another hearing starts as soon as yours ends, and your talking can interfere with the next case.